Sunday, November 6, 2016

Aerostats - Providing Force Protection & Intel to the ANA

Photo by Resolute Support Headquarters
At one time in Afghanistan - when there were over 800 large bases and small outposts spread across the country side - one could continually see large white balloons floating overhead. The balloons - more accurately called areostats - had cameras on board that could pan across the ground below out to quite a few miles to observe for enemy activity. Now there are very few aerostats flying. Some are lofted overhead by the United States military at its few remaining bases in Afghanistan (Camp Resolute Support in Kabul, Bagram Air Field, and a few others). What many observers don't realize is that the Afghan National Army (ANA) is now operating its own aerostats (bought and paid for by the U.S. of course).

It took a while for the military intelligence professionals in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and then Resolute Support HQs to figure out that the Afghan National Army would need a capability like the aerostat. One wonders what the intel weanies were thinking about during those long years from 2002 to 2013 or so before plans to field aerostats to the ANA were formulated. For more on this topic read the paragraph below:

"All in all, my impression is that the Pentagon's near complete lack of emphasis on building an intelligence collection and analytic capability for the Afghan military and police is nothing short of pitiful. If the White House and the Pentagon are REALLY serious about giving the Afghan military and police the means to stand on their own and operate independently, this budget does not come close to doing it. The Afghan military and police must have their own well trained and equipped intelligence units if they are to have any chance of performing their missions after U.S. combat forces withdraw next year. Otherwise, the ANA and ANP will remain completely dependent on the U.S. for this vital combat enabler for the foreseeable future."  Paragraph from Little Spending on Intelligence Support for Afghan Military in New Budget, Matthew A. Aid, June 1, 2013.
But enough about that - the ANA is now flying its own balloons - although independent news sources provide a dismal accounting on the early efforts to keep them aloft, maintain them, and actually use the balloons for preventing attacks.

Don't despair! We now have a 'good news story' on how successful the Afghan security forces are in using the aerostats brought to you courtesy of a press release by Resolute Support headquarters. Read "With silent guardians, Afghan soldiers protect Kabul", Resolute Support News, November 5, 2016.

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